For physicians and healthcare organizations who have been hesitant to try out telemedicine tools at their practice, now is the time to rip off the Band-Aid. With COVID-19 forcing many to cancel procedures or close their physical offices, telemedicine may be the answer to continuing to care for patients and keeping your business going.
One thing is for certain: Both patient and physician usage of telemedicine is on the rise and will likely create an impact on consumer preferences that will last far beyond the pandemic.
Here are seven undeniable benefits that telemedicine can bring to your practice or organization — not only to survive the current times but for the foreseeable future.
1. Flatten the curve.
Telemedicine can play a vital role in “flattening the curve.” For one, patients are able to get care from their homes, maintain social distance, and help curb unnecessary traffic to ERs. According to the American Hospital Associations, only 16% of patients say they would prefer to go to an ER if access to telemedicine were available. One hospital was able to reduce ER visits by 50% after implementing telemedicine.
2. Maintain continuity of care.
A large percentage of the population is still in need of care, whether it’s to address chronic conditions, urgent non-COVID-19-related health issues, or even routine follow-ups. Those who have to cancel an elective procedure may still want to continue engaging with their physician with frequent check-ins. Telemedicine enables medical professionals to continue delivering care, reduce patient anxiety, and even make efforts in retaining the loyalty of patients during this time.
3. Boost your overall star ratings.
Today, all demographics are truly “connected” and feel at ease communicating virtually — including with their healthcare providers. 67% of patients say that telemedicine improves their satisfaction with medical care, and 79% report that scheduling a telemedicine follow-up visit is more convenient than arranging an in-person appointment. In fact, patients are so on board with telemedicine, one in five would even pay more for the ability to have a virtual consultation, according to Accenture. Furthermore, 74% of millennials — who will soon make up the entirety of the patient or caregiver population — prefer the convenience of telehealth over in-person visits. By engaging millennials through telemedicine today, you may be gaining a patient for life.
4. Reach new patients.
Telemedicine opens up a new demographic of patients for many practices and hospitals — especially those patients who live in rural areas or list reasons such as time, convenience, and proximity as barriers to making that first consultation. According to Amwell, nearly a quarter of people have delayed seeing a doctor because it takes too long, with an additional 13% saying they were too busy.
5. Future-proof your practice or hospital.
Telemedicine is growing rapidly both in patient demand and healthcare adoption. According to the American Hospital Association, 76% of hospitals have implemented telehealth technology. Implementing telemedicine services not only makes your organization more competitive now, but it also ensures your practice will be set up for success for years to come: Two-thirds of patients say that COVID-19 has increased their willingness to use telehealth in the future, and 83% expect to use virtual appointments after the pandemic ends.
While we all hope never to experience another healthcare crisis, telemedicine ensures you can continue to practice even when your facility is otherwise inaccessible.
6. Save time and money.
Numerous reports, including a Geisinger Health Plan study, cite that the implementation of a telemedicine program generated significant cost savings for healthcare organizations.
Virtual visits tend to save a lot of time for both physicians and patients. The average in-office visit takes 121 minutes, including 101 minutes spent commuting and waiting. This means that patients, on average, only get 20 minutes of interaction with a doctor.
Considering that a third of patients have left a doctor’s appointment because the wait was too long, telemedicine has the potential to reduce cancelations and no-shows, saving time and money for office staff and physicians as well.
7. Take advantage of flexible insurance benefits.
Many insurance networks are recognizing that virtual visits are taking the place of critical in-person visits during this pandemic, and they’re modifying their payment policies as such. As Bloomberg reports, compensation for virtual visits from Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, CVS Health’s Aetna, and Humana Inc. remains on par with in-person visits.
Once the dust settles, practices can count on the fact that patients of all demographics will not only have used telemedicine services during this time, but they will come to prefer the convenience of receiving care from the comfort of their own homes and personal devices.